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Does Walking really count as Exercise?

I think it is silly to be even be talking about this, but apparently there are some people out who think walking doesn't really count as exercise - because walking is something you do every day anyway.

However as an avid walker - someone who comes back from long walks/hikes feeling exhausted, hungry and yet feeling like I accomplished something - I must defend walking not only as an exercise, but as a great way to build up an appetite.

Exercise does NOT have to involve:
  • Sweating
  • Grunting
  • Gasping for breath
Some exercises do, obviously, but it is definitely not a requirement. Anyone who tells you that exercises have to make you feel out of breath clearly has some funny notions about what counts as exercise.

So while we are at it, lets bust some myths people might have about walking by laying down some facts about walking.

Fact #1. Brisk Walking is actually a Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Exercise

Walking at a brisk pace that raises your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone is recommended for the benefits of so-called "real exercise" for the cardiovascular system and to reduce health risks.

However even a slower pace counts as a Light or Lower Intensity workout. More so if there is  hill climbing or stairs involved.

A brisk pace is one where you are breathing harder than normal - you can talk, but you can't sing. If you take your pulse, it should be between 50 percent and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Walk at least 10 minutes in this zone for it to count as a moderate-intensity exercise session. You should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, five days per week, which can be broken up into sessions of at least 10 minutes at a time. For beginners try doing 20-minute brisk walks at a time and over time go further distances for longer periods to build up your endurance.

Fact #2. You can build Endurance using Long Distance Walks or Brisk Walking

Going for a longer distance walk (such as a 2 hour hike) will help build your endurance. You can do the same thing using brisk walking, but over a short distance. Brisk Walking for 30 minutes or more, five to seven times per week will build more muscle in your heart and lungs. Aim for a fast walk that brings your heart rate into the zone of 65-75 percent of your maximum heart rate.

If you prefer longer walks / hiking, aim to get your heart rate to reach the 40 to 60 zone.

Fact #3. You can use Walking as Exercise for Weight Loss

The truth about any exercise for weight loss is that it can help keep off extra pounds, but controlling what you eat will have the biggest effect. A healthy low-calorie diet combined with regular exercise - whether it is walking or something more intense - will help you to burn fat and consequently lose weight.

At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity is great for weight management. But getting exercise only solves half the problem - you also need to watch your eating habits and reduce your calories.

You can't outrun or outwalk what goes into your mouth

Fact #4. There are Health Benefits to Low or Easy-Intensity Walking

Walking the dog or going for a stroll at an easy pace works your muscles and joints. This is especially beneficial if you are overweight, aged, or at risk for arthritis. Strolling at an easy pace reduces the loads on the knee joints by 25 percent while actually burning a few more calories per mile than walking faster - assuming you are going the same distance regardless.

What burns more calories? Walking 100 meters really slowly, or jogging 100 meters?

Walking at a speed of 4 km per hour (average walking speed is 5 kmph) a person can walk 100 meters in exactly 1.5 minutes. A 200 lb person walking 100 meters at this speed burns 6 calories.

Jogging at 10 kmph a person can jog 100 meters in exactly 36 seconds. The same 200 lb person jogging that distance at that speed burns 8 calories.

So going faster only burned 33% more calories, but did it in less than half the time.

Walking slow also doesn't have the cardiovascular benefits of brisk walking (which would have burned 7 calories in the above example), but it is a good starting point for adding activities to your daily schedule that burns more calories.

Fact #5. Low-Intensity Exercises that Break Up Sitting Time reduces Health Risks

Many studies are finding that sitting or simply standing still for more than 30 minutes at a time can raise your health risks, even if you do a full bout of exercise at some point in the day. Walking around for one to three minutes every half hour or hour has been shown to be needed to reduce these health risks.

Getting up and circling the office or house thus can lengthen your life span. One study found that these short, easy walking breaks improved glucose control and insulin response. An increasing number of fitness bands have inactivity alerts to remind you when it's time to get up and move.

And lastly, another study determined that taking breaks from periods of sitting also reduced your stress and improved your sense of well-being, which in turn has an effect on mental health and even boosts your chances at weight loss because depressed people are more likely to overeat.

Fact #6. 10,000 Steps Per Day is a Good Workout

If you are addicted to tracking your daily footsteps and make the effort to reach 10,000 steps per day, does that mean you are exercising? For most people, that number is an indicator you have engaged in exercise during the day, as it is difficult for most people to log more than 6,000 steps just in daily activity. You could log 10,000 steps at an easy pace during the day, and it obviously wouldn't qualify as moderate-intensity exercise, but it would still count as a low-intensity workout.

Many fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, analyze your steps and record those that are aerobic or exercise steps done at a pace they consider fast enough to quality. Thus if you want to ensure you are getting a "real workout" then look at that number as well as the step total.

Fact #7. Race Walking is an Olympic Sport

Walking is a physical activity regardless of what speed you enjoy doing it, from a slow stroll through a fast brisk that is practically jogging. eg. Like competitive walking, aka "Race Walking" - which oddly enough is also an Olympic Sport.



Conclusions

Yes, walking is exercise. Indeed, it is even a sport.

That said, you should balance walking with other physical activities that benefit various parts of your body. Strength training to build and maintain muscle. Cycling is very beneficial for walkers as it works the opposite leg muscles. It is good to engage in a wide variety of activities, so all of your muscle groups are challenged and strengthened. Keep walking and hiking and jogging, whatever it is you do - and remember, you are still exercising.

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